Unemployment is doubtless a thing that many archaeologists will experience during their careers. This is especially the case for archaeologists hired for temporary fieldwork, where contracts can run out and expire or where work can become lean (during certain periods of the year or during economic instability). There are factors outside of your control that can either work in your favour or work against you. These include, amongst others, the current economic climate, your work experience and previous employment, your educational record, where you live, if (in Britain) you are CSCS card holder, and if you can drive. Archaeology, as a whole, is generally a very well-educated sector, with many people having at least an undergraduate degree to their name, if not a Masters. However, it is often said that once you have entered the fray and became a paid archaeologist it is much easier to gain employment once again at the same or other archaeological units.
Generalisations aside, the past two and a half months have led me in a fruitless search to gain employment, and I have recently signed onto Job Seekers Allowance, a financial safety net for those searching for work in the UK. I was somewhat shocked, and impressed, that I was able to choose archaeology as a main option on my job seekers agreement form after hearing many horror stories from friends. Although I hold out hope for carving out a career in the archaeology/heritage sector, I realise that now is a particularly tough time. I also realise that as a physically disabled person (see previous posts), picking archaeology as a career choice was never going to be a straightforward career progression or job choice (but I’m not one for easy rides).
As a recent guest post from Charles Hay pointed out, a career in archaeology is not easy for anyone, and you will have to find work in other sectors to help pay your way whilst you search for that dream archaeology job. Be open for anything, don’t be afraid to move, and always apply, even when you don’t think you stand a chance. Whilst I may feel sorry for all the archaeological units that have received my CV in their email inbox’s, I do not for a moment regret not sending it.
As always there is hope. Many of my friends who I have studied with, or have got to know at University, have gained jobs in the archaeological sector. There has been another recent round of Institute for Archaeologists/Heritage Lottery Funded training placements released (8 in all), based in either Scotland, England or Wales. (Be fast though, the closing date for some of the positions is the 19th of November, a few days away, whilst others are open until early December). BAJR, the British Archaeological Jobs and Resources site, always presents new jobs as soon as they are available. The IFA job sheet is also well worth signing up, as is the daily checking of the University of Leicester Museums Jobs Desk.
And if worst comes to worst, you can always volunteer! If you have a day free and there is a local dig coming up, why not join in and gain experience, get to know some new people and have fun. I have volunteered for quite a few units now, both during my undergraduate degree and during my ‘gap year’ (i.e. surgery year), and I’ve managed to get to Germany for free as a volunteer, managing to work on an excellent site.